The latest print media sales figures show a healthy
newspaper sector and a hugely competitive magazine sector which is
cannibalising itself, writes Anton Harber.


Writing on his blog, the Harbinger, he says the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported Feb 14 that total daily newspaper sales averaged 1 890 406 copies in the last quarter, up from 1,78-m in the same period for the previous year.

Total weekend newspapers averaged 2 574 800 copies, up just 40 000 from the previous year.

Community newspapers numbered an average of 438 313 copies, up from 410 993.

Total sales among magazines, which saw an astounding 64 new titles last year, went from 761 537 to 840 780. This points to new titles cannibalising the older ones for most of their readers.

The new magazine titles broke down as follows: 33 were consumer magazines, 18 were business-to-business and 13 were custom magazines.

It was notable that there were 48 new freely distributed publications which registered with the Audit Bureau of Circulations in 2006, of which 27 were newspapers and 21 were magazines.

In the last quarter, publications which showed significant movement included:

* The Daily Sun continued its meteoric growth to average fractionally under 500 000 for the last quarter, a growth of about 12% on the previous year
*So did Laduma, the soccer paper, which broke 300 000 from the previous year’s 280 000.
*Mail & Guardian, which jumped from 41 000 to over 48 000.
*City Press, which grew from 175 000 to 183 000
*Sunday Sun, which topped 200 000 for the first time
*Sunday World, which went from 155 000 to 184 000
*Financial Mail, which soared from a lowly 24 710 to almost 33 000 – a massive jump which vindicated its substantial redesign

Of the newcomers, The Weekender (Business Day’s Saturday venture) does not appear yet. Maverick magazine is over 22 000 but most of these are free give-aways.

One magazine which jumps out is Noseweek, which is selling over 16 000 – not bad for an accentric and spunky little publication.

Afrikaans newspapers showed a bit of movement up (Beeld), a bit down (Burger, probably caused by its sister paper Son) and some about the same (Rapport).

The Sowetan is still languishing at 134 000, with little upward movement. The Citizen seems stuck at a lowly 71 432, down just a few from last year.

One aspect which one cannot but notice and comment on – as it is almost bizarre in its consistency – is that every Independent group newspaper is selling almost exactly what it sold the prevoius year. The Cape Argus went from 74 668 to 73 614; the Cape Times went from 50 527 to 49 647; Daily News went from 50 208 to 50 229; the Mercury went from 40 599 to 40 683; Pretoria News from 29 766 to 29 776; the Star from 163 201 to 163 332; the Sunday Independent from 41 182 to 42 617. No growth, no loss, nothing to draw comment at all – except for its extreme consistency. Pray tell me, how do they manage it?